Salting the Bitters

By Philip Dobard

Star Hodgson receives the judges choice award.

On Monday, July 18, the mixology stars aligned in New Orleans for "State of Art," The Museum of the American Cocktail's (MOTAC) annual cocktail extravaganza and celebration of spirited drinking. The evening's theme,"Salting the Bitters," honored two of the industry's leading lights, author and star culinarian Mark Bitterman and iPic Entertainment drinkmaster Adam Seger, for their respective contributions to the festivities. MOTAC Founding President Dale "King Cocktail" DeGroff also delivered remarks.

The program featured a seminar on the use of amaro and salt in cocktails by Mark Bitterman and the New Orleans premiere of BarTales New York, a new single-city documentary series featuring DeGroff, Gaz Regan, Seger, and David Wondrich.

Lane MacDougall and the Kenton's team show off their People's Choice award!

Competing for top honors in a competition featuring cocktails incorporating both amaro and salt, plus base spirits and assorted mixers, were 12 of the Crescent's City's leading bartenders. Lane McDougall of Kenton's Restaurant took People's Choice and Star Hodgson of Star Craft garnered the Judges' Choice. Bitterman, DeGroff, and Seger served as judges, while National Food & Beverage Foundation President Liz Williams and MOTAC Director Philip Dobard presented the awards. Recipes for this year's winning cocktails follow this article.

The event was sponsored by Craft + Estate, a portfolio of top-quality, small-batch spirits; Balsam American Amaro; Q Drinks, makers of fine cocktail mixers; Artisan Fine Wines; Vino Wholesale; iPic Entertainment; The Meadow; and Rare Tea Cellar, purveyor of fine herbs, spices, and teas and a range of hard-to-find culinary items from across the globe. Food was generously donated by local restaurants Atchafalaya, Carmo, Katie's, Primitivo, and Sucré. Many thanks to all of the bartenders who participated and shared their delicious cocktails!


Peaches N' Herb

Lane MacDougall of Kenton's Restaurant won People's Choice with this delicious summer drink

  • 1oz of Rough Ryder Rye
  • 1/2oz Honey
  • 1/2oz Amaro
  • 1/4oz Balsam
  • 1/2oz Grapefruit

Muddled Mint / Peach with a pinch of salt and lemon zest

Bittersweet Seduction

Star Hodgson of Star Craft and Mezcal El Silencio won Judge's Choice with this creative cocktail.

  • 1 oz Balsam
  • 1 oz Mezcal El Silencio Espadin
  • 1 oz Pontchatoula Strawberry Syrup (recipe follows)
  • .5 oz Fresh Lime
  • .5 oz Q Grapefruit Soda
  • House made Coffee Cacao Himalayan Salt & Pepper Bitters (recipe follows)

Add Balsam, El Silencio Espadin, Strawberry Syrup and Lime juice to a mixing glass. Add 4 drops bitters, ice and shake. Fine strain into a coupe glass and top with a splash of Q Grapefruit soda. Serve with a Balsam amaro soaked smoked salt strawberry.

To make the strawberry syrup: Use the ripest strawberries you can find. For each 4 cups of hulled strawberries, add 1 cup of sugar. Allow to macerate and then blend with an immersion blender or food processor. Can to preserve for future use.

To make bitters: In a glass jar, add 2 cups Mezcal El Silencio Espadin, .5 cup crushed Mexican medium roast coffee beans, .5 cup cacao powder, .25 cup crushed peppercorns and 1 tablespoon Alder smoked salt. Allow to infuse for 3 days before filtering through cheesecloth and then a fine coffee filter. 

B: soak halved strawberries in Balsam and then sprinkle with Alder Smoked Salt.

All photos are courtesy TJ Boudreauxand Mireille-Anne Jouanaud. More can be found here on Facebook.